[imagesource: Dick Barnatt / Redferns]
In the early 1970s, Led Zeppelin was probably the biggest band in the world.
Anyone who has read any of the hundreds of band bios (I would say When the giants walked the earth is the best of the group) will understand why, with their success and notoriety increasing with each album release and with each tour.
Some of the stories that are told about the band are true. Others, like the notorious story of the red snapper / shark, are shrouded in mystery.
What we do know for sure is that in October 1972, as they returned home from a tour of Japan, the band members stopped by Slip Disc in Mumbai.
A visit to a nightclub was far from unusual, but it was a seedy joint on a Monday with about 10 people inside at the time.
Make that 13, as three “long-haired Westerners who had just been denied entry to Blow Up, a much more stilted nightclub under the grand Taj Mahal hotel by the water,” entered.
The Telegraph picks it up from here:
That year the band had already performed in front of hundreds of thousands of raving Tucson fans in Tokyo, and here’s Page and Plant – with tour director Richard Cole – at a dive bar with broom closet in the center – city ââof Mumbai. Not only that, but Atomic Forest and a handful of other Indian rock bands had made careers playing covers of tracks by Zeppelin, Stones and Jethro Tull. These men were living legends. And they were in their midst now.
What happened next has to be considered one of the most extraordinary âI was thereâ moments in rock history. He also produced one of the most tantalizing lost bootlegs in music.
Madhukar Dhas aka Madooo, then 22-year-old singer of local psychedelic rock band Atomic Forest, was invited to perform by Slip Disc owner, a man named Ramzan.
With a few other musicians who were there, Dhas took the stage. They played ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ by the Rolling Stones, which earned Plant approval.
The room started to fill up as rumor spread that these VIPs were in attendance, and quickly reached its capacity of 50.
Some jokingly encouraged Page and Plant to perform, then the duo took to the stage:
The precise memories of the impromptu set-list vary. It was recorded by Slip Disc resident DJ Arul Harris, but the location of the single band remains unknown. According to Dhas, Page and Plant started off with a blues ad-lib about showing up to Blow Up, the club under the Taj, and not being allowed in.
They also performed “Whole Lotta Love” with the dilapidated equipment available, including a guitar that had been strung with piano strings.
Page and Plant fell out for just under half an hour and told the crowd that they would be back the next night to play again.
They did, but found the place full of people holding up cameras and left after 10 minutes without playing a chord.
In 2012, Plant opened up about the night they fell out during an interview, saying that “we ended up in there with heaps and heaps of illicit substances …
He remembers singing and playing the drums.
Dhas actually went on to become a full-fledged minor celebrity, starring in a Mumbai production of the musical. Jesus Christ Superstar before moving to New York in 1978.
In 1981, Plant appeared as a guest on New York’s rock radio station WNEW 102.7FM, and Dhas called several times to try and speak with him.
He was first fired by the receptionist who responded, but once his complaints were passed to Plant, the two reconnected.
The world-famous musician told Dhas that he “remembers the night fondly”.
It’s about as good as it gets, really.